When a family member is an alcoholic or a drug addict, the whole family is affected. Family members of addicts also undergo suffering and hurt caused by this disease. Everyday, concerned family members deal with worry, disappointment, guilt, fear shame, anger, and even resentment.
Family members are also the ones who bear the brunt of the addicts’ mood swings, paranoia, and even violence. They are also the ones who have to shoulder financial costs and legal consequences of the addict’s lifestyle and behavior. At times, family members find their concern and love transformed as they become enablers that do nothing to truly help the addicts.
Instead of trying to “help” the alcoholics or addicts in their own ways, it is best for family members to equip themselves with adequate information as well as seek intervention for their loved ones.
- Be informed
Addiction feeds off ignorance and denial–both from the persons suffering from it and the people surrounding them. It is important to do your homework and find out what you can about different types of addiction, their characteristics, and its unique dynamics. This allows family members to identify triggers and better handle the addicts more effectively.
In our society, there’s so many stigma associated with addicts and it differs from one drug to another. These stereotypes do not help the addicts and drive them even further from getting the help they need.
- Not helping them is actually helping them
Family members need to understand that they cannot “love”, “understand” and “support” the addicts into recovery. That does not happen. In fact, it is important to allow them to hit their “bottoms” in order for them to gain enough insight into turning their life around. Addicts need to see the consequences of their actions. Otherwise, they will keep doing what they are doing, further allowing them to spiral downwards.
- Stop financial support
Financial trouble is almost always present with addiction. Addicts sooner or later end up unemployed, losing their savings, and turning to petty crimes to support their lifestyle. Family members, specially spouses and parents, almost always are the ones who end up paying for hospitalizations, car repair, loaned money, the addicts’ utility bills and groceries, court fines, bails, and other expenses brought about by drug use or alcoholism. In addition, stop them from having access to money, even avoid having money and other valuables from just lying around. You are not helping addicts by allowing them opportunities to fulfill their addictions.
- Understand that addiction is a disease
Addiction is a disease and trying to “cure” it for your loved ones’ sakes will be a waste of time, energy and emotions. At times, family members often end up blaming themselves, which leads to actions that distracts family members from the underlying issue of addiction and the effective ways in which to address it.
- Follow through
Preaching to addicts, especially when they are still under the influence, will not work for them. Words do not make as much impact to them as much as actions do. So making threats or promises due to sadness, anger or frustration, will be meaningless unless there is actual follow through.
In the same vein, extracting promises from them is also futile as their condition make them incapable of acting up on their promises and commitments. Expecting them to fulfill a promise will only cause more anger, frustration, and disappointment when these promises get broken.
- Focus on yourself
When dealing with an addicted family member, it can be easily for the rest of the family to overlook their own needs. Addicts’ needs and problems often take the front seat in the family’s priorities. However, this does not do anything to the situation and only makes the concerned family members feel even more drained, trapped, and more prone to resentment. It is important for family members to empower themselves and occupy their time and routine with their own happiness.
In order to really help an addicted family member or loved one, it is important for the rest of the family to allow the addict to go through the natural course of the addiction and its consequences. Information and empowerment, done the right way, will be the only hope for recovery.
If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol dependence or abuse, text or call Bridges of Hope